In 2019, any economist or fashion buyer — even global trend forecasting authority WGSN — would probably have said that e-commerce in South Africa would be an industry set to boom late in the 2020s. However, forcing us to hibernate in our homes and migrate from changerooms to virtual carts, the Covid-19 pandemic created many unexpected changes in retail. One of those was a 66% increase in e-commerce sales thanks to stores being closed and virtual wallets left wide open.

Research from local tech researchers World Wide Worx shows that traditional bricks-and-mortar stores recorded all-time lows for the nine months of the 2020 lockdown, but e-commerce sales doubled in market share, with leading e-tailer Takealot raking in revenue of R3.3 billion.

As the founding mothers and fathers of fads such as #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt and never-ending micro trends such as cottagecore, Gen Z has led the e-commerce wave. This is especially the case for the 18- to 24-year-old demographic; online payment platform Payfast identified this age group as the leading buyers who shop on their cell phones.

With 2019 a sweet spot for South African fashion, which saw the industry contributing unprecedented billions to gross domestic product, there was a 139% increase in e-commerce shopping among Gen Z in the final quarter of 2020 — the highest of any age group in South Africa. Looking at any high-end or fast-fashion business, bricks and mortar are no longer a staunch commitment worth standing behind. More and more luxury brands and online retailers are scrambling to pull in audiences in innovative ways, with fine curation and sustainability at the forefront, a trend taking over South Africa’s digital space. 

Here are some of the leading spaces on the web where you are sure to fill your carts.

The Changing Room

When one thinks of a sustainable approach to fashion, patchwork and dowdy pieces in earthy colourways might come to mind. But that is not always the case in the re-sale market.Pre-loved goods have made a fair contribution in limiting the wastefulness of buying trendy items that contribute more to waste than they do to our closets. This is one of the many positive options one will find with The Changing Room, which offers vintage designer items in good nick.Also in the business of consignment, The Changing Room is the brainchild of Toni Tamaris, who is no stranger to the runways of Paris Fashion Week. She spent her youth in the French capital with her parents scouring shows for the latest trends.While The Changing Room has a flagship store, its pride and joy is its online presence, which keeps users up to date on its latest offerings with brands including Saint Laurent, Christian Louboutin, and Tom Ford. Regular updates — including on local brands for sale online — are also made via The Changing Room’s social media accounts.

Creators’ Depot

The heart of news in the creative space, Between 10 and 5 has been curating the finest South African talents in multiple disciplines. This culminated in Creators’ Depot, which houses the finest art, fashion, décor, and lifestyle products in the country.Seeing the opportunity as a chance to grow with the many creatives it has championed over the years, Creators’ Depot is looking to become the go-to space for buyers and sellers alike and strengthen the creative economy of South Africa in the process.Creators’ Depot mirrors the eclectic spirit of Between 10 and 5 founder Uno de Waal — one of the most noted authorities in South Africa’s creative space — and features the award-winning work of Kiffkak, Crystal Birch, and Hannah Lavery among others.

Isivuno Naturals

While the Zoom call has become the bane of our existence, it has also become a stage for beauty enthusiasts to unleash their inner Pat McGrath. Taken from the Nguni word for harvest, Isivuno celebrates the rich African produce through quality beauty products. Struggling to find quality unrefined shea butter for her business, O’live Handmade Soaps, Zikhona Tefu took to the shea-butter mecca in rural Ghana. Learning and building relations with many of the local Ghanaian producers, Tefu quickly became the go-to girl for others sourcing quality natural products. Sourced from across the continent, every essential oil, soap, and cosmetic wax is carefully considered. The aim is to support the individuals and businesses under the Isivuno umbrella through the brand’s natural-product journey.

What We CherishWhile running around the cutthroat streets of the Big Apple would turn anyone into an austere hip cat, this was the perfect springboard for What We Cherish founder Melaney Oldenhof to start her sustainable luxury business. Realising the growth of sustainable luxury brands on the web, Oldenhof sought to dominate this untapped space in South Africa.Focused on representing brands that promote African heritage, women-led businesses, and the transparency that is expected from sustainable brands, What We Cherish is looking to reshape the luxury space in South Africa.The site not only promotes these products but also includes a deep dive into the culture. Articles on the site look into self-care and conscious living with detailed beauty regiments. Not limited to products, What We Cherish also shows some love to travel, such as eco hotspots to see.

ARC Store

ARC Store recently opened its doors to South Africans. It promises itself to be the premier destination of all things beauty. ARC houses beloved local brands such as Skoon and Suki Suki, popular powerhouses including MAC and Lancôme, along with niche must-haves such as Lotti London and Black Up.While an array of experiences awaits within the bricks-and-mortar ARC store, shopping is as easy and interactive online as it is in store. The brand’s “edits” section curates beauty finds according to all users’ needs, whether you’re a pro, novice, or just curious about what your beauty talents may be. Turn to the “edits” section for consciously-produced brands and trending items to add to your collection

If you’re impulsive or looking for that well-deserved splurge, check out the “investment edit” — look out for prod-uct lines such as exclusive Salvatore Ferragamo Tuscan Creations and Huda Beauty.

Faithful to Nature

For the past 15 years, Faithful to Nature has become a haven for those looking to shop with ease and peace of mind in terms of how each item is produced and where it comes from.Founder of the brand, Robyn Smith and her team scrutinise every product before it becomes available in the store. The store’s ethos is to empower its users with knowledge to buy consciously. Doing all the worrying for users, Faithful to Nature has a unique ingredient policy that focuses on health, environment, and social impact.Filtering the options they highlight, Faithful to Nature also looks for brands that make an impact on their communities. This includes their “clean beauty choice” stamp of approval that is awarded to brands that have shown to understand the ripple effect of each and every ingredient in their products, how they affect people, animals, and plant life.

We Are Egg

Co-creation, co-lab, and co-evolution are the pillars of We Are Egg. Looking to incubate local brands, We Are Egg is a colourful and fun answer to high-end department stores. The in-store We Are Egg experience includes live DJs, food courts, and phygital (physical and digital) shopping, where items are checked out on your phone.Vibrant and youthful, the company was founded by clothing retail stalwarts Arie Fabian and Paul Simon, who were looking to bridge the gap between local brands and buyers as South Africa’s first phygital store. Other than an immersive shopping app, the store also allows brand partners to track stock and sales and manage merchandise live.While We Are Egg products are local, it is also home to international brands including Off-White.

 From the August edition of Wanted, 2021.

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